A testy but lovable classic in its own time and could be straight out of a Buck Rogers comic!
Positive Product Points
Striking looking machine from any angle and easy to use. Beautifully made aluminium body with tactile controls and a really nice bakelite filter handle. Remarkable recovery time for an espresso machine with such a tiny boiler.
Negative Product Points
Expensive to service and can have a fractious personality. Classy body is let down by cheap trim and tack-on bits. Average microfoaming ability. Questionable durability of some critical components.
I adore our Nivola but…After eight long years of ownership it has been a love not-quite-hate relationship. Even nine odd years after it first hit the market the Elektra Nivola is, without doubt still one of the most striking looking home espresso machines ever produced. Sculptural in appearance and Italian in personality the Nivola will invite emotions that are normally reserved for living and breathing things. Or any contraption that has a steam boiler at its heart. Our early years of ownership saw four (extended) warranty returns to the retailer/importer, one being for a new control board. Out of warranty, send away servicing costs can be high, $280 for a normal service. This really has to be an owner tended espresso machine. After the first service, I learnt it’s not that hard. The beautifully designed and finished body is let down by the poorly finished and easily broken perspex “windscreen” and the flimsy, fall-off clock cover. This machine also deserves a pressure or temperature gauge, or even a separate steam knob on this side rather than a quartz clock that lasts no time at all. Although Elektra went to some effort to protect critical internal components, I believe over time there is an issue of moisture and heat degradation of the control board. The first one needed to be replaced four years into ownership and now, four years on and almost to the day we’re due for another one. This will amount to nearly $700 over eight years for one component.
Keep reading. It gets better.
Faulty board aside we still use the Nivola at least twice a day. It just needs a more manual approach to temperature control, mainly with big flushes after steaming. After all this we still love the beast. Even with it's tiny boiler the Nivola will steam it's head off and recover remarkably quickly. It produces some of the best tasting espressos and cappuccinos we have ever had and with practice, although not world class you will see nice microfoam. The Nivola is not just an appliance. It sits proudly in the kitchen and, like the tactile metal sculpture it is, invites stroking while extracting your morning cuppa. The fridge just doesn’t do it for me. If you love good coffee but don’t care what gives it to you or what it looks like then there are cheaper and more reliable machines around. Certainly for a bit more, a good E61 has presence and more stability. My wife and I are about to upgrade. I think it says something about the Nivola, that even after all it’s foibles and bad behaviour it’s taken eight years for us to finally pull the trigger. The pragmatism in me says a Giotto Rocket is a much better long term proposition but as my wife says “after looking at the Nivola for eight years, how on earth can you replace it with a stainless steel box.” So be it. An Elektra Microcasa Leva , semiauto or Miniverticale will join the Nivola on the kitchen bench. Whatever it’s going to be the Nivola will be a hard act to follow.
Mocha Coffee in Sydney. No longer the distributors in Australia. Not a bad experience but could have been more sympathetic to our early problems with the machine.
Three Month Followup
It died. Maybe I'll fix it maybe I won't. Damn thing!
One Year Followup
Sadly our Elektra Nivola's fractious nature finally got the better of us. It refused to steam and then started to blow the main power switch in the house. Then the control board gave up (again). We lost patience with it and now it resides, in pieces in the shed. Caveat emptor indeed. We bought a 2nd hand Elektra semiautomatica which has performed flawlessly.